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Until recently, product packaging hadn’t really changed much. Some visual branding and information that described what you were buying was all that was fit to print.
In the last few years, a lot has changed.
Modern consumers have more access to more immediate information than ever before. The most recent comScore data indicates that 61 percent of U.S. adults now own smartphones—and 80 percent of the more than 1 billion new phones that shipped in 2013 offer mobile data.
Marketers are evolving their packaging strategies to match the changes of the new digital consumer. New packaging offers immersive digital content, frequently shared through the increasingly ubiquitous use of QR codes. These two-dimensional bar codes allow users to easily link to a world of online content.
Kellogg’s has an app that brings package images to life on the third screen. Red Bull offers a mobile game. Danone and others have created rewards programs all driven by scanning the package. Glacéau vitaminwater will send you coupons via SMS text.
On the private label front, Asda’s “Chosen by You” offers consumers an opportunity to directly participate in both product and package design. The products, in turn, encourage consumers to interact with each other on Twitter.
Sobey’s “ThisFish” program lets consumers enter a package code to trace their fish back to the fisherman who caught it. Azienda Agricola Bertinelli, with its Millesimato Parmigiano Reggiano, provides a cow-to-table history of each block of cheese through an on-package code. New temperature- and pathogen-sensitive packages let consumers know when products are fresh.
Printable RFID tags and near-field communication chips on packages will provide even more options in the future. Special offers and coupons can be triggered to individual shoppers’ smartphones as they walk by the shelf.
Packages can now be imprinted to help consumers keep track of what’s in their pantry and auto-generate shopping lists based on consumption. “Smart” refrigerators from Samsung and others are being designed to incorporate this functionality as it evolves.
Yes, it is mostly national brands that are blazing new trails. But private label retailers will have the opportunity to learn from these new marketing ventures and determine those that can be most successfully implemented with their own products and categories.
Does this seem far-fetched? We have only scratched the surface. As Jean-Luc Picard reminds us in Star Trek, “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” Packaging is boldly going where it has never gone before.